Report: legislature continuing attack on home rule

Published: Feb. 28, 2021 at 8:19 PM CST
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (Capitol News Service) -

Last year, Florida lawmakers proposed 42 bills prohibiting local governments from taking action on issues in their communities.

Preemption is a tool being used by lawmakers to remove local authority.

A new report by Integrity Florida examines some of the new ways lawmakers are looking to supersede local governments.

Research Director Ben Wilcox said the state saw a new type of preemption during the pandemic via executive action.

“To block fines imposed by local governments for mask violations,” said Wilcox.

And lawmakers are continuing a trend of stripping away local powers in 2021.

The anti-rioting bill would create a pathway for the Governor and Cabinet to reverse local decisions to reduce police budgets.

“A lot of the preemptions that are being proposed are politically and ideologically motivated,” said Wilcox.

There’s also a bill that would essentially remove local governments’ ability to regulate ports.

“There really is no state-level agency that oversees the ports,” said Wilcox.

And a bill that would reverse efforts to reduce campaign contributions in local races.

“In some cases, those local campaign contribution limit reductions were adopted by voters,” said Wilcox.

Integrity Florida fears if lawmakers continue to turn to preemption, it will strip away local governments’ ability to experiment with innovative policies.

“Local governments will not be able to take action to respond to things that their citizenry is concerned about,” said Wilcox.

The report recommends a higher vote threshold for passing preemptions, a single subject rule for preemption bills and implementing sunset dates so any preemption would have to be renewed by future legislatures.

The report also suggests removing fines and punitive liabilities for local officials who violate state preemptions. Currently, local officials who pass gun restrictions stronger than the state’s are subject to punishment, although that policy is currently being litigated in the courts.

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